August 17, 2018
Safe, affordable housing creates economic stability for communities. Yet an increasing number of families have difficulty affording housing, despite having one or two wage earners at home. When a large percentage of a household’s income is consumed with housing expenses, families are less likely to have enough resources to meet basic needs.
The National Low-Income Housing Coalition’s (NLIHC) annual report, Out of Reach, highlights how difficult it is to find affordable housing by documenting the gap between wages and the cost of rental housing in the United States. The report’s Housing Wage is an estimate of the hourly wage a full-time worker needs to earn to be able to afford a rental home at each state’s fair market rent (FMR) without spending more than 30 percent of his or her income on housing.
In Kansas, the report finds, the fair market rent (FMR) for both a two-bedroom rental ($815) and a one-bedroom rental ($635) are out of reach for Kansans who work at the state minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
- A person working at that wage would need to work 86 hours per week, or approximately 2.2 full-time jobs, to afford a two-bedroom rental at the fair market rate.
- The same worker needs to work 67 hours per week, or 1.7 full-time jobs, to afford a one-bedroom rental at the fair market rate.
Put another way, the “Housing Wage” in Kansas, or the amount a person would need to earn per hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment, is $15.67 per hour. This means the struggle to afford modest rental housing is not limited to minimum-wage workers, but to any Kansan earning below the estimated $15.67 Kansas Housing Wage.
When housing expenses take up a large percentage of a household’s income, families struggle to pay for other basic monthly needs. In Kansas, 21 percent of children live in households with a high housing cost burden. That means one in five children live with someone who spends 30 percent or more of his or her income on housing. The data is more alarming for children who live in low-income households because those households have fewer resources to begin with. Of Kansas children that live in low-income households, 47 percent live with someone who struggles with a high housing cost burden. Children suffer when high housing costs mean families have fewer resources for other monthly needs such as food, clothing, medical care, and child care.
The NLIHC report underscores the need for policymakers to evaluate the performance of federal and state housing programs. Efforts to expand and reform LIHTC, the nation’s largest affordable housing production subsidy, should be supported. Subsidy programs that cover the difference between a household’s rental costs and wages should be adequately funded. Currently, these programs are not supported at the level needed to serve all of the nation’s lowest-income renters. The report also highlights the need for more conversation and research about the minimum wage.
Every Kansan deserves the opportunity to live in a decent, affordable home, and Kansas lawmakers should take steps to ensure that is the reality.
Click here to read the full report.
Laura Hales was the Kansas Center for Economic Growth’s 2018 summer intern. She is pursuing her Master’s in Economics at the University of Missouri – Kansas City.
 https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/7244-children-living-in-households-with-a-high-housing-cost-burden?loc=18&loct=2 – detailed/2/18/false/870,573,869,36,868,867,133,38,35,18/any/14287,14288
 https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/71-children-in-low-income-households-with-a-high-housing-cost-burden?loc=18&loct=2 – detailed/2/18/false/870,573,869,36,868,867,133,38,35,18/any/376,377